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KU News Release

May 5, 2005
Contact: Jennifer Kinnard, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, (785) 864-7644.

KU, institute to share $400K grant to develop community journalism resources


LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas' journalism school and the Harwood Institute will work as partners over the next two years to develop resources to help journalists better understand how communities work and how to translate that knowledge into credible journalism.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded $200,000 each to the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at KU and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation of Bethesda, Md. Peggy Kuhr, Knight chair on the press, leadership and community at KU, and institute founder Richard Harwood will develop teaching tools for journalists, students and professors.

The centerpiece of the initiative will be Web-based access to a range of practical resources, including a community coverage handbook, modules for journalism educators and newsroom trainers, and case studies giving examples of good community journalism. The journalism school also will host a series of three symposiums involving KU students to discuss the relationship between journalists and communities and the implications for credible coverage.

" Communities are as different as the people who live there," Kuhr said. "Journalists, and journalism students, need to understand them better, especially in this age of fast-paced change driven by technology."

" For journalists to truly tap civic life, several basic questions must be asked in new ways," Harwood said. "What does it take to write with authority? How can journalists' work become more authentic? What makes journalists accountable? And why is that important?"

The Harwood Institute inspired and worked with many news organizations and journalists to tackle these questions throughout the 1990s.

Among those initiatives was the American Society for Newspaper Editors' Journalism Values Institute, which examined what it takes to produce credible journalism in a rapidly changing world. The body of knowledge that emerged from the work with news organizations provided the base of materials for the KU-Harwood partnership.

The journalism school at KU is one of the country's premier programs. Kuhr has developed a strong national network among newsroom editors and journalism professors working on initiatives, including the Associated Press Managing Editors' (APME) National Credibility Roundtables Project. The school, named for influential Kansas editor and publisher William Allen White, is a nationally accredited school that prepares students for careers in newswriting and editing, advertising, public relations, corporate and marketing communications, and management and sales.

The KU-Harwood grants are among several the Knight Foundation has made in recent years aimed at improving community journalism. Last year, the foundation announced the creation of a "teaching newspaper" at the Anniston Star in Alabama, where the University of Alabama will offer a master's degree in community journalism. The foundation also funded a New Voices grant program, run by J-Lab at the University of Maryland, to help launch new community media experiments.

" Most of America's journalism doesn't come from Washington, D.C., or from New York City," said Eric Newton, director of journalism initiatives at the Knight Foundation. "Most journalism is community journalism. All across the country there are hardworking, honest, local journalists who just want to report the news. We want to help those journalists do a better job."

The Harwood Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1989 that works with organizations seeking to improve public life and politics. Harwood, a national authority on civic engagement and improving America's communities, has written numerous studies on health care, education, the role of the media, the state of American politics and the changing conditions in U.S. society. He is a frequent commentator and contributor to national media.

" The Harwood Institute is renowned for its dedication to and expertise in community work," said Ann Brill, dean of the journalism school. "We are excited for the opportunity to work with the institute and are grateful for the generous support from the Knight Foundation. We are also fortunate to have someone of Peggy Kuhr's caliber at the journalism school leading the project at KU. "

Kuhr, who joined KU in 2002, previously was managing editor for content at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. She was president of the Washington State AP organization, president of the Utah-Idaho-Spokane AP Association, co-chair of the Spokane Bench Bar Press Association and a member of the APME national board of directors. This year, as part of the National Credibility Roundtables Project, she is working with seven journalism professors whose students are holding roundtables for partner newspapers.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. Since it was established in 1950, the Knight Foundation has approved more than $250 million in grants aimed at improving journalism and advancing a free press.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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